Rainy Day Deliciousness!

coco bars bake

Gusty winds and rain showers kept us home on this chilly September day. It’s been about a month since my husband proudly brought home a couple of dark brown, hairy coconuts (store-bought, of course) and insisted we make homemade coconut milk. He laboriously spent three hours grating the hard meat until it was fine enough to cream into curry last week. And today, we used the leftover coco bits to combine into a delicious dessert (or was it our entire lunch?!)

It was a family affair: daddy chopping cooking chocolate into chips; Karsten mixing the flour all over the pot and himself; mommy trying to cook the bars just right so they wouldn’t burn…

The result was chewy, not too sweet, and with just the right bit of crunch to satisfy. We scraped the pan, and our cake plates ‘til the last crumb.

Recipe for Chewy Chunky Coco Bars:

Ingredients:

1 cup flour

A pinch of salt

4 ounces butter melted and cooled

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 cup desiccated coconut

1 cup chocolate chips

Topping:

1 cup chocolate chips

1 tsp butter

 

Directions:

1.      Grease an 8 inch baking pan and preheat oven to 350

2.      Mix flour and salt

3.      Beat melted butter with sugar until creamy, then beat in egg

4.      Slowly mix in flour and salt

5.      Add coconut and chocolate chips

6.      Bake for 25 minutes

7.      Cool and then drizzle with chocolate sauce

How to Make Natural Yoghurt at Home

Yoghurt consistency should not be too thin, and after chilling, will be a bit firmer
My homemade yoghurt

Natural yoghurt is one of those power-foods that should always be your fridge.

Containing the kind of bacteria your body actually needs to flourish, loaded with vitamins (B12, B5, potassium, iodine, zinc and more!), and easy to digest, Yoghurt is delicious, and has so many health benefits.

My love of yoghurt must have started at age five, in India, when we ate yoghurt (called “curd”) with nearly almost everything—creamed into curries, topped over rice, mixed with fruit salad, or as an ice-cold “Lassie” (yoghurt shake) dessert.

Our yoghurt was usually homemade, and the recipe for creamy, delicious yoghurt is surprisingly simple! Some recipes online will tell you to use special pots, certain temperatures, etc–but its really not that scientific! See for yourself…

All you will need:

  1. A Liter of milk
  2. A pot to boil it
  3. A cup of Yoghurt culture (plain, unsweetened “live” yoghurt)
  4. A thick blanket

How it’s done:

  1. On low heat, bring the milk to a boil. Stir it constantly, careful to not let it burn or boil over.
  2. After it boils, remove the pot from heat, and let it cool. You’ll know it’s the right temperature when you can sit a finger in the milk for 10 seconds comfortably.
  3. At this point, add the culture. Mix it in gently.
  4. Cover the pot and wrap it in a large blanket, then store it somewhere nice and dark. A low kitchen cupboard works well.
  5. Leave it for 8 hours, or overnight.
  6. The next day, you should have yoghurt! Don’t stir it just yet—carefully place it in the fridge to set. A couple hours more to chill will make it nice and creamy.
Yoghurt consistency should not be too thin, and after chilling, will be a bit firmer

This batch should keep in your fridge for at least a week. Don’t forget that you can sweeten it healthily with honey or molasses, freeze it like ice-cream, or even flavor it with various fruits. Adding a bit of tossed oats or cornflakes will give you a fill of fiber for breakfast or snack. For a crunchier texture, top it with almonds and raisins.

Save a bit of this batch for culture to make your next pot, and the next, and the next! You’ll never run out of yoghurt culture.

Enjoy!

Top 10 Asian Aphrodisiacs

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A steaming bowl of greasy cow testicles in the countryside

In the name of February-love, lust, and Philippine folklore, I give you ten Asian (some uniquely Filipino) aphrodisiacs you may or may not have heard of. From the many forms of “Gayuma”, found bottled up in Manila’s Quiapo markets, to the more traditional eats that get us in the mood.

Myth, or Miracle? You decide.

1.    Balut
How does crunching an embryo, with its feathery fetus, make you want to produce one of your own? I have yet to be enlightened.

2.    Durian
The custard-creamy meat of this fruit is said to ‘smell like hell, but taste like Heaven’.
If you can get past the initial hit, the Davao-grown kind is addicting.

3.    Bulls Balls
Also known as Soup Number 5 and apparently popular amongst jeepney drivers in Cagayan de Oro, this oily stew is made of chopped up cow’s testicles. Seriously.

4.    Nata de Coco
What made the Japanese the biggest exporters of this Philippine coconut jelly-like chewables in the late 90’s is still a mystery, though I like to think they discovered the little white dessert’s potent-powers and just couldn’t get enough.

5.    Cobra Meat
While other countries prefer to drink the reptile’s blood, the Philippines sometimes serves up this exotic dish Adobo-style. And you know, it kinda tastes like chicken!

6.    Dog Meat
Cringe if you must, but this is one of the most talked about “aphrodisiacs” out there.

7.    Ginseng Root
The Chinese sure do know their herbal medicine, and this one is said to help cure sexual dysfunction. The word “Ginseng” even means “man root,” most likely because of its forked (like a man’s legs) shape.

8.    Avocados
A little easier to purchase in supermarkets than the more exotic aphrodisiacs, this vegetable has worked its magic since 200 BC, when its consumers, the Mayans and Aztecs, used it for you-know-what.

9.    Chili Peppers
Some like it hot! What better way to spice up a night than with that extra bite to your Valentines dinner?

asian aphrodisiacs
Photo by Mel Gatchalian

10.    Alcohol
Technically, it only numbs down the brain a bit, so this last item as an aphrodisiac is debatable (as are all the others on this list), but you weren’t actually going to plan your date without a glass of moonshine, were you?

Photography by Mel Gatchalian

Achtung! Kid in the Kitchen

baking

Perhaps it should be the other way around, but ever since I kicked off this year with eating healthier, it’s been making me more conscious of what I’m feeding my son. And the biggest thing I’ve learned is that healthy eating takes planning.

The problem with planning is that we always think we don’t have time. I used to cook a lot, before I gave birth. Now, with a mixing spoon in one hand, and my boy in the other, it just means going at a slower pace, and turning cooking into an activity that he can get involved with, too.

Yesterday I snuck a cup of carrots into this cake, which used also freshly sliced apples, olive oil and brown sugar. Will post more recipes as our experiments grow–and, if they’re successful! ;)

Progress is a Mindset

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wearing "those jeans" in 2007 :)

There’s a box of stuff I keep here in our house—clothes I never wear because I “outgrew” them after getting pregnant, baby clothes (which I am still attached to!) and unused summer wear. Last week, I tried on one of the pairs of jeans—and, for the first time in two years, it fit me again! I was ecstatic! I think one has to know what it’s like to be pregnant and gain tons of weight to appreciate this feeling.

It was the start of this year that I said to myself, I am going to do this: I am going to work on being the best version of myself (physically), and I am going to do this despite all the yummy food around! I realized in a country like this, it’s actually easy to make healthier choices, because one has so many options. Food is abundant, yes, but you can choose to live a healthy lifestyle, and you CAN claim this mindset.

It’s starting with small changes:
–More vegetables with my meals
–Intense workouts, 5x a week
–No unnecessary sugary drinks, only 100 percent fruit juice
–No wine at night, except on weekends (this one is a killer! Do you know how much I love my nightly red wine?)

I’ve found that supplementing my favorite foods or drinks with a healthy alternative works just fine. I love rice and chewy white bread, but the less I eat it, the less my body craves it. But eating right does take planning. Also, I wonder if many moms fall into the trap of munching their kids’ food on the go, while preparing meals, or eating leftovers because it seems such a waste to throw that extra pasta away.

Exercise is another challenge, but I am telling myself: “No more excuses!” It’s all in the mind, isn’t it? My mom used to always say, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Now, with a  two year old crawling under me while I attempt to do push-ups, the mind is always going crazy and saying, “I can’t do this!” but then I put those old jeans on, and it feels AWESOME!!!!

Is there something in your life you are trying to make progress with? A new challenge; a new goal? Believe first that you can do it, and then work as hard as necessary to accomplish that goal. The end result will be worth it! I know the feeling of those old jeans are!

Eating Out in Manila

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For Evenings Out
You should know by now that there is more to Manila than Karaoke. Among other things, there is good food, good drinks, and amazing people. Here are a few close to my heart, and my tummy.

  1. 1.    Scarlet Wine Lounge (The Fort Strip, 1634; +632 28876838; barcraftconcepts@gmail.com)

I just love the intimate feel of this place, and the subdued, red-hued colors. This is my happy place. The fact that the management also does the DJing, talks with guests, mixes the Sangrias, all adds a personal touch. It’s not snobbish, as some other places in the Fort area can be, and somehow, I always end up here on lazy, lounging weekends.

  1. 2.    La Cuisine (Cor. Sedeno and Valero St., Salcedo Village, Makati City)

This corner is what I call the Fantastic French Secret. Most people know about the neighboring Bugsys and Bowlers bars, with their Rockeoke (Karaoke with a live band), but come to La Cuisine on a Thursday night when Tony Marino whisks you away…to Broadway! I’m an old soul at heart, grew up crooning to Gene Kelly and Judy Garland, and being serenaded by Tony while sipping red wine and eating fine French food…is a little bit of old-school Heaven.

3.    Ginzadon Restaurant, (Resorts World, Pasay City)

Now I am certainly not the word on Japanese food, and I barely know how to hold chopsticks demurely…but I love the maki portions in this place—and the prices! Set in the classy Resorts World playground, on the side of 6-Star Maxims Hotel, you’d think it would be overpriced, but no. For just Php1,000, three of us girls ate, and left very, very full.

4.    Murray’s New Orleans Bourbon Street Steaks and Oysters (Bldng. 6, 9th

  1. Avenue, High Street; +632 8564326)

My little boy loves this place too, because of the kiddy play table which he always stops at while walking down High Street, forcing me to order a cappuccino, or a beer or two, or indulge in dinner. Their chicken pate is delicious, and the oysters are juicy, too. Live music plays in the evening, so it’s great for friends, for couples, for singles…for anyone.

  1. Savoy (Jupiter Street, Makati City)

The immense passion that Danish chef Robert puts into his cooking, and the care that he takes in serving his guests, enjoying seeing them enjoy the food—that is priceless, and you can taste it. This is a brand new, elegant restaurant to watch out for. Melt-in-your-mouth-steaks, and caviar platters will keep you coming back.

7 Good Reasons to Drink Red Wine Now

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(Photography by Mel Gatchalian)

Scientists and wine-lovers have been saying so for decades, but here a few of my favorite reasons. Cheers to the long weekend–hope you are all getting some relaxation in!

  1. Fewer kidney stones
  2. Less risk of cancer
  3. Lower risk of diabetes
  4. Less lines and wrinkles on the skin
  5. Antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties
  6. Deeper, calmer sleep
  7. Natural blush (for some of us!)

There are even wine facials available in the spa market, or “vinotherapy”, which is available locally at the Neoday Spa (BGC, Fort) and The Spa (Ortigas and Fort branches).

I like to use wine sometimes as an alternative to paint. (It does seem a little less indulgent than soaking in a bathtub of it!)

Here’s a sample.

Quick Avocado Salad Recipe

1. Wash and halve a ripe avocado, scoop out the meat but reserve the shells

2. Toss: Chopped avocado, tomatoes, red onions, garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper

3. Transfer salad back into avocado halves

4. Sprinkle with sesame seeds; garnish with lime slice

5. Share with a friend!

Some said benefits of avocado: Boosts metabolism, reduces the rate of heart disease, helps prevent cancer, aids the body with needed minerals like potassium, folic acid and Vitamin C…and it tastes real good, too!

Personal Tip: I like avocado recipes and salads because it’s easy and quick to make, plus its good toddler food that I can make double portions of to feed my husband, too. The boys are not very picky when it comes to eating, and we all enjoy this tasty tropical fruit.

Have you discovered any easy-to-make goodies recently? Please share!

Dating my Husband

A few nights ago, we met up for dinner in the cozy new French restaurant, Champetre. I wore my pretty pink pumps under the table (much too painful to walk in!) and remembered that it has been almost two years of marriage. We’re still having fun ;)

The food brought us back to two years ago, when we visited the South of France by driving there, from Italy and staying in a different town each night. I was already 8 months pregnant, but the travel was smooth and the countryside beautiful. It was my first time to see Monaco, the French Riviera, and the Mediterranean Sea. Wind swept yet sunny, those two weeks were full of wonderful memories.

Maybe that’s what good food does–it takes you for a journey, even if you can’t go to the actual place. Happy travels!

Visit chef Marc Aubry’s new restaurant Champetre at:

G/F Net One Center Building
Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Tel. 815 8801 to 02

Tip: Call to make reservations, as they tend to fill up late in the day.